Wikipedia says that an illusion of control is “the tendency for people to overestimate their ability to control events; for example, it occurs when someone feels a sense of control over outcomes that they demonstrably do not influence”. Typically used to describe how the superstitions and rituals that surround gambling, sports, and other such things work. For me, it’s how I’ve felt for years about birth control.
I was laying on the stretcher, Stephen King book in hand when my doctor came through the curtain.
Numerous nurses had been in and out, checking my temperature and blood pressure, bringing me warm blankets and chamomile aromatherapy in a little sniffable vial. One even gave me an EKG for some reason. The nicest ones came in as a group of three, armed with IV needles and a syringe full of the equivalent of “a big nice glass of wine”.
When he entered the small cubby of a room, I knew it was Go Time.
I don’t know if it was because of how the light emphasized his hairline or if it was the fact that his last name ended in a vowel. Or if more realistically, it had something to do with the fact I’d had been marathoning the first season of The Sopranos at home, but suddenly, instead of just an OB/GYN, he was a man that could make me a very good deal.
“Are you sure about this?” He asked after the usual “hey, how are you”s. He was calm and pretty cool for it being so early in the morning. I could picture him meeting up with Tony at the Bada Bing after his shift was done at the hospital.
Feeling just a little less anxious and a little more sure of myself, I responded with a half laugh, “It’s a little too late to change my mind now.”
He responded by telling me it was never too late. If I needed an out, this was it.
Even though anxiety was tugging at the edge of my tie in the back-show your butt to the world gown, I shook my head.
I was here. Might as well do the damn thing.
A few minutes later I was wheeled into an operating room and switched over to a very cold metal table. Then after one of the nice nurses from earlier placed an oxygen mask on my face, everything went black.
The first time I had seriously thought about birth control, I was 17.
For years prior, always in the company of others mind you, my mother would go on and on about how when I was ready, all I had to do was ask, and she would get me birth control. No problem right? She was the cool mom, remember? She would do anything if it was the best for her girl. She was the best mom. The number one mom. No other mom could mom like she did.
The actuality was when I had my first real boyfriend and decided to ask her for help in obtaining birth control, her response was different. Almost 16 years later even when I can’t remember the title of that song I just heard on the radio, I remember her answer.
“So what are you, a slut now?”
Quicker than a hiccup, the bravery I had pulled together to ask the question eroded. For the next few weeks, she acted as if I was contagious. Oddly enough, she did become a lot more handsy with my then boyfriend around that time. She’d chat with him endlessly while icing me out. A few times, she tickled attached him.
It was a really confusing time.
I did end up sleeping with that dude. We were safe. As safe as public high school Sex Ed classes could teach us to be. We broke up my first semester of college. He wrote goodbye letters to my mother and sister and never returned my calls.
Like I said, it was a really confusing time.
This event really peppered my lifelong birth control experience. Between that first boyfriend and when I got married to my wonderful husband, the only other experience I had was a trip to the campus Health Clinic for the morning after pill.
After having my first child at 21, I started THE PILL. For the next 9 years, we would have an off and on again relationship that was as rocky as the one I had with my mother.
All the usual side effects happened to me that happened to thousands of other women. To use a clinical term, I became a basket case. My libido fell into the Mariana Trench. I got acquainted again with the migraines I had as a pre-teen. It literally was a little pill of Hell that I swallowed every day.
During the time of popping birth control pills like they were party drugs, I had four more pregnancies which gave me three of the coolest kids on the planet. It was also during this time that my first born, my beautiful long-haired son, passed away. That tragedy was followed by a miscarriage.
It was not an easy time.
I bounced around between types of hormonal pills before getting the Nexplanon implant. Three years of constant coverage seemed like a good way to tame my rabbit like fertility.
And for two and a half years, it was awesome.
The decision to remove Nexplanon from my arm and being fertile from my life was made in my living room on what we call “The Little Couch”. I had my head wrapped in a blanket to block out as much light and sound as possible. My stomach rolled with nausea from a migraine roaring through my head and an almost Keith Richard’s amount of Excedrin.
I spent most of the days that week writhing in a pain I couldn’t touch with my hands. I felt that if I could just get my hands in behind my eye, I could dig it out, like the worms I dug up as a kid. The pulsing behind my left eye made me want to high five Odin for plucking his own eye out. It seemed like a logical and reasonable choice.
I didn’t pluck my own out obviously. My courage is way less than my imagination.
It was then that my husband and I decided that now was the time. We had a houseful of children. I wasn’t getting younger. And the side effects of hormonal birth control were getting worse. We like to pride ourselves on being logical people. Not Vulcan logical, but the basic human kind of logic.
The only clear answer was sterilization.
I called my could-be-a-Soprano’s character doctor and made an appointment. There was no hesitation. There was no period of mourning. There were no tears shed about interrupting my biological imperative.
I haven’t gotten baby rabies for years. The sight of a newborn does nothing but remind me about how fucking hard babies are. I get giddy over puppy videos now. I go all gooey when I see a doggo doing doggo things. While I still take pride and enjoy (most days at least) being a mother, I am over becoming a mother.
The appointment came faster than I thought it was going to. I sat with my doctor and we talked about options before he dug the Nexplanon out of my arm. I told him I was done, I wanted out. He looked at my chart, then looked at me, asked me if I was sure and then said ok.
After talking all the obtains, we decided that a tubal ligation was the way to go. It was covered by our insurance and it supplied the lifelong low failure rate that I needed.
That’s how I ended up naked and asleep in an operating room on a Tuesday morning. The surgery was uneventful and went pretty much as planned. I was taken to recovery and then, when I was able, I was reunited with three of the coolest kids in the world and my husband.
Since the surgery things have gone well. It’s been about a week and most of the pain had dissipated. The first few days were the worst, but that’s normal. I’m able to do most things and feel in the next week, I’ll be back to my normal self.
But it won’t be my old normal self. I don’t know if getting put under anesthesia is the human equivalent of turning something off and then back on again, but I feel a lot better mentally and emotionally. Maybe it’s the absence of extra crazy hormones in my body.
I’m not a doctor, I can’t really say for sure.
All I do know is that I feel like I’m actually in control now.
And that’s pretty nice.